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Why Did Obama Help Lock Up a Yemeni Journalist?

An intrepid Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, is locked up--and the Obama administration holds the key to his freedom.

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When Craig recently questioned the US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, about Shaye’s case, she says Feierstein laughed at the question before answering. “Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating Al Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” he said. When Craig mentioned the shock waves it had sent through the journalism community in Yemen, Feierstein replied, “This isn’t anything to do with journalism, it is to do with the fact that he was assisting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and if they [Yemeni journalists] are not doing that they don’t have anything to worry about from us.”

For many journalists in Yemen, the publicly available “facts” about how Shaye was “assisting” AQAP indicate that simply interviewing Al Qaeda–associated figures, or reporting on civilian deaths caused by US strikes, is a crime in the view of the US government. “I think the worst thing about the whole case is that not only is an independent journalist being held in proxy detention by the US,” says Craig, “but that they’ve successfully put paid to other Yemeni journalists investigating air strikes against civilians and, most importantly, holding their own government to account. Shaye did both of those things.” She adds: “With the huge increase in government air strikes and US drone attacks recently, Yemen needs journalists like Shaye to report on what’s really going on.”

 

 

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. His writing and reporting is available at RebelReports.com.

 
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